The secret language of fans …

Marie Antoinette fans
Image via Pinterest

Did you know that during Victorian times, when fans were a much more frequently used accessory than they are today, the way they were positioned and used to accentuate gestures actually conveyed emotions and represented hidden meanings?

It’s a fascinating and kind of romantic thing really – in fact, the language of fans has been called the language of love.  No fashionable lady’s  attire in the 18th century would have been complete without her fan.  And woe betide any woman who did not follow the rules of fan etiquette, for the right position was essential to attract or disengage a suitor!

Here are some common fan positions and their meanings …

Fan language

The fan placed near the heart:
“You have won my love.”

A closed fan touched to the right eye:
“When may I be allowed to see you?”

Letting the fan rest on the right cheek: “Yes.”

Letting the fan rest on the left cheek:

Covering the left ear with an open fan:
“Do not betray our secret.”

Half-opened fan pressed to the lips:
“You may kiss me.”

Quickly and impetuously closing the fan:
“I’m jealous.”

Drawing the fan through the hand:
“I hate you!” 

Holding the fan open, covering the mouth:
“I am single.”

Fans_I am single

Fanning slowly:
“I am married.”

Fanning quickly.
“I am engaged.”


Hitting any object:
“I’m impatient.”

I’m not really sure what emotion this lady is trying to portray with her fan though?  It just looks to me like she had a rough night!!

reclining fans

So that, my friends, is a little bit of an insight into the secret language of the fans.  I think it would have been a much easier way to convey to somebody you’re not interested – as opposed to the dreaded face-to-face admission.  Almost like sending someone a “it’s not you, it’s me” text right?! *

Fan held over the heart …





* All images and information was sourced from various parts of the internet.  There was no one available from the 18th century to vouch for their accuracy!

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